Man dies from COVID-19 after numerous attempts to get medical help
Kyle Brown started feeling sick on April 17, while on the job as a maintenance technician at TPI in Newton.
He died April 29 — 12 days after he began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
His wife, Pamela, said symptoms started with Brown experiencing a strong burning in his chest and a shortness of breath.
“By that evening, he had a fever and severe body aches, headaches, slight sore throat,” she said. “We knew he needed to be tested because he had been exposed to multiple people who ended up positive at TPI.”
TPI is a wind turbine blade manufacturer. The company closed the Newton site on April 24 due to 28 positive cases of COVID-19 among workers.
Pamela said she and Brown went to UnityPoint Health in Marshalltown on April 18, but were told a test would not be provided because Brown did not work at a meatpacking plant or was not older than 65. Pamela said Brown told hospital personnel that he had been around several people who tested positive and that he worked in a factory setting.
The couple called the Newton Clinic where a fever tent was set up in the parking lot of MercyOne Newton Medical Center. Pamela said they were told to come in right away.
On April 20, Brown and Pamela went to the emergency room at UnityPoint Health in Marshalltown.
“He had been unable to sit up in bed or talk at all,” she said. “On the phone the nurse said he met the criteria for a 911 call. We are one mile from the hospital so we drove. We assumed he’d be admitted right away.”
Brown was given a Z-pack and an inhaler. His pulse oximeter reading was 95, which is considered at the low end of normal for arterial oxygen. Brown was sent home even though Pamela said the only time he could breathe was when he was perfectly still. However, Brown did not yet meet the admittance guidelines, she said.
Two days later, the fever tent in Newton called to tell Brown he was positive for COVID-19.
“Kyle couldn’t talk to her because of his shortness of breath,” Pamela said. “While I talked with her she heard him coughing and struggling and said he needs to come in right now.”
The nurse assured Pamela that Brown would not be turned away. However, Brown spent even less time in the emergency room in Newton and was told he did not meet the admittance guidelines, even though his pulse oximeter reading had fallen to 93. Pamela tried to get Brown admitted but was denied.
“We were completely devastated to be sent home again,” she said. “I think it was two days later early in the morning. Maybe just one, I’m not sure. His pulse ox at home was 86.”
Then he was admitted to UnityPoint in Marshalltown after another trip to the emergency room.
During his time in the hospital, oxygen was increased for him every day. Brown was finally life-flighted to Des Moines on Sunday evening — after Pamela began showing symptoms of COVID-19.
“I feel horrible but my breathing is fine,” Pamela said.
Brown died the next day and Pamela lost the man she described as the “best husband ever — patient, thoughtful and trustworthy.”
“He told me he loved me at least 50 times a day,” Pamela said.
She said Brown did struggle with addiction in his past and ended up in prison, but became a Christian while he served time. After Brown was released, he got a job at TPI. Pamela met him on the internet dating site — eharmony.com. His past did not scare her because the way he talked, she could tell he was completely transformed. They dated for five years before they married in 2017.
“Kyle always said he was living his dreams,” Pamela said. “He had gotten his license, owned a car, had a wife, a house, restored relationships with his children. He was so grateful to God and so happy. He was gentle, humble, kind, super funny, a crazy and passionate Cyclones and Rams fan. He loved Iowa so much, and Marshalltown.”
Pamela is hoping Brown’s death will cause state-issued guidelines to be addressed.
“We felt like no one was taking seriously his difficult breathing,” Pamela said. “He would shake violently with chills and in the ER, it took so long for them to notice and bring a blanket. He kept texting me and I kept telling him to ask for a blanket but he couldn’t move to reach the button without losing his breath.”
Pamela does not want UnityPoint to get blamed for Brown’s death. She said they were just following the state guidelines.
Sean Hylton, marketing communications specialist for UnityPoint Health, said the healthcare facility could not confirm nor deny Brown was a patient. He said as more recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the Iowa Department of Public Health are changing as more is learned about the virus.
“UnityPoint is following their direction, which includes screening and testing,” Hylton said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the individuals and families dealing with this illness. That’s why it’s extremely important to help stop the spread of the disease by washing your hands, wearing a mask and social distancing.”
“State guidelines feel more the culprit to me,” Pamela said. “It was just awful — a nightmare. I knew he was too sick to advocate for himself but the docs wouldn’t take me seriously.”